Top 10 Questions to Ask a Car Accident Witness
Car accidents are an unfortunate reality, especially in bustling urban areas like Las Vegas. Amidst the desert landscape, the city’s busy intersections and streets are often the sites of these accidents, frequently witnessed by passersby.
Finding a Car Accident Witness
When involved in a car accident, try to identify as many witnesses as possible, while you’re still at the scene. Not every witness will have useful information, but even one or two witnesses can prove invaluable when presenting a claim to an insurance company or seeking damages from the negligent driver.
Gathering Information from Witnesses
At the accident scene, you may not be in the best position to gather detailed information beyond the witnesses’ names and contact information. However, once you’ve addressed your immediate injuries, you can follow up with the witnesses, provided you have their contact details. Ideally, you should collaborate with a seasoned Las Vegas personal injury attorney experienced in questioning witnesses.
Top 10 Questions to Ask a Car Accident Witness
Can You Explain–in Your Own Words–What You Saw?
It is always a good idea to start with an open-ended question that invites the witness to provide as much detail as possible. Open-ended questions help the witness recall the accident situation without leading them in a particular direction. You do not want to ask a leading question like, “Did you see the other driver hit me?”, as that may put the witness on the defensive or make them feel like you’re fishing for a particular answer. It is better to let the witness establish their own narrative before asking any more specific follow-up questions.
What Were You Doing Just Before the Accident?
Establish the context of the witness’s observations. Their testimony’s value may depend on their attention level at the moment of impact and what they were doing just before the accident.
How Clear Was Your View of the Accident?
The clarity of a witness’s view can vary based on several factors. Ask about any obstructions, the time of day, and weather conditions that could have affected their visibility.
Where Were You in Relation to the Accident?
Not every witness is in the best position to accurately describe an accident. Establish each witness’s location just before and during the crash.
Here are a few examples of follow-up questions you might need to ask:
- Could you describe the general position of each car prior to the accident, i.e. who was in what lane?
- Did you see either vehicle serving or moving erratically?
- Could you determine how fast the vehicles were traveling, i.e. did any of the drivers appear to be speeding?
- Did you see or hear either driver attempt to brake suddenly?
- How much time elapsed between the first sign of trouble and the actual impact?
- Did you notice the traffic signals just before the accident? Did either driver run a red light or speed through a yellow light at an unsafe speed?
- Did you observe any other kind of traffic infraction, such as an improper lane change or an illegal U-turn?
- Did you observe any damage that was not apparent to the drivers, such as debris that may have flown off the car?
- Did you observe the other driver following the accident? Did he or she appear to be injured or intoxicated? Did he or she say anything?
Can You Provide More Details About What You Saw?
Tailor follow-up questions based on the witness’s narrative and other answers to nail down specific details.
What Did You Do After the Accident?
A witness’s actions after the crash can help reconstruct what happened immediately afterward.
Did You Notice Any Other Witnesses Who Might Have More Information?
A witness might provide leads to other witnesses who had a better view of what happened.
Do You Know Anyone Involved in the Accident?
Always ask a witness if they have any relationship to the other drivers or parties involved in the accident.
Do You Have Any Relevant Expertise?
Not all witnesses are equally valuable. Someone with relevant expertise may provide more useful information.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
End with an open-ended question to see if there’s any other detail they think might be relevant to your accident.
Importance of Witness Contact Information
It’s crucial to get accurate contact information for any witnesses, as there may be a need for additional follow-up in the future. For example, your lawyer or insurance company may want confirmation of the witness’ account. Or the witness may later recall something that may be important. And as mentioned above, many people who see car accidents in Las Vegas do not live in Nevada. This further emphasizes the importance of getting accurate contact information for any witnesses.
What Not to Ask a Witness
Knowing what not to ask a witness following a car accident is just as important as knowing what to ask. Avoid asking for second or third-hand accounts of what happened and ensure the witness only tells you what they personally saw. Also, avoid speculation that goes beyond their own knowledge and expertise.
Make sure the witness only tells you what they personally saw. If a witness tells you, “Well I didn’t see the accident, but my friend did…”, that is not helpful to your case. It might be useful to locate and speak to the friend, but anything the witness tells you in this context is little more than gossip–or in legal terms “hearsay,” which is usually inadmissible in a court of law.
Also make sure the witness does not engage in speculation that goes outside their own knowledge and expertise. Be wary of the answer that begins with “I think…” since that indicates the witness does not know what he or she saw. You do not need the witness’ opinion of what might (or might not) have happened.
It is also a good idea whenever possible to ask the witness to write down their observations and then sign and date the paper. This is not the same thing as a notarized affidavit or a statement made under oath in court. But a signed, dated writing can be useful in helping to establish the credibility of a witness in a later formal proceeding. Conversely, if the witness suddenly changes their account of what happened, the signed statement may be useful in undermining their credibility.
For example, let’s say you are in an accident with another driver at a busy intersection. A witness tells you at the scene that he saw the other driver run a red light and enter the intersection prematurely. But several months later during a deposition in your personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, the witness suddenly claims he saw you enter the intersection first while making an illegal left turn. If you took the time to obtain a written statement at the scene, that evidence can show the witness is either lying in the deposition or is simply unreliable. Either way, you can protect yourself.
Seek Guidance from a Skilled Car Accident Attorney in Las Vegas
In the aftermath of a car accident, reaching out to multiple witnesses immediately after the crash may not always be feasible for many victims. It’s understandable that if you are personally involved, physical injuries or emotional trauma may limit your ability to do much beyond seeking medical attention. That’s precisely why it becomes crucial to contact a seasoned personal injury attorney in Las Vegas following any accident.
At Naqvi Injury Law, we possess the expertise to locate and effectively interview witnesses. Equally important, we possess the ability to discern which witnesses are credible and can assist you in constructing the strongest possible case against a negligent driver. If you find yourself in such a situation and require legal assistance, call our office today to speak directly with a local attorney, or click here. It’s worth noting that Naqvi Injury Law never charges upfront fees to accident victims, meaning there’s no financial burden associated with simply having a conversation with us.